Back in the day of “Lords and Ladies” in old England, common folks who worked the land holdings and small village shops were often referred to as “Cotters”, and so the small humble homes in which they abode were known as “cottages”. In America, the term came to refer to a distinct form of architecture describing a residential structure of economical design and minimal footprint. During the depression years, it was often a young family’s first adventure with home ownership at a time when building materials were scarce and expensive, and mortgage money hard to come by – even from the newly-created “building & loan” institutions. Some were even called “Roosevelt cottages”.
During the building period from about 1935 to 1941 and the WWII years, the term “bungalow” – probably borrowed from Hindi – came into vogue, suggesting a somewhat “grander” approach to cottage living. For several school years in my early youth, I slept in the gabled upper room of such a village dwelling, surrounded by English gardens, a massive bed of petunias and a white-painted front gate. Almost all of our neighbors occupied homes of similar but widely distinctive style, from very traditional to art deco. It was a time - I like to think - of great civility and neighborliness, and an underlying absence of pretension. It was the small-town America my erstwhile friend Norman Rockwell believed in and illustrated. There are still places today where its shadows linger.
Charles Nelson, Sr. raised a family of seven children in this small, three-room cottage he built in Oysterville, Washington in 1873. It remains today identical in every detail and beautifully-maintained in that immaculately-preserved historic village.
Most bungalows of the 1940s were of one or one-and-a-half stories, often with a gabled under-roof bedroom or two looking out on a small front yard and covered porch.
Taking a page from their English “cousins”, it was not unusual to grace the typical vacation cottage with a colorful name. I am often attracted as well by the individuality achieved by colorfully-painted front doors.